Difficulties having sex

Many people find, at some time, that despite their desire for sex, they are unable to have the kind of sex they want when they actually try to do it.

Examples of this would include men who want to penetrate somebody else but who find they lose their erection (often called ‘erectile dysfunction’), women who want to be penetrated but find that it is painful or their vaginal muscles go into spasms (this is often called ‘vaginismus’), people who want to be penetrated anally but who find this too painful or tight, and people who want to give oral sex but who find that they choke.

The first thing to ask yourself is whether you really want to do this activity or whether you are doing it because you think it is the ‘normal’ or right way to have sex. It is perfectly okay to say that vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex, hand sex or any other activity is not for you (either forever or just for now). Nobody should make you feel like you have to have a kind of sex that doesn’t feel right to you.

If you do really want to do the activity then there are suggestions that might help.

Relaxation and breathing exercises may also be helpful to get your body ready and your mind less anxious.

Also, you may find that certain sexual positions make certain kinds of sex easier. The Sex Book by Suzi Godson includes good pictures of these and tells you what each position works well for. Often lubrication can help sex to happen more easily, an over-the -counter lubricant (or’ lube’) can be bought from a sex shop or from a pharmacist (usually right near where the condoms are).

Women who find that their vagina is tight, and want to be penetrated (by fingers, penises, or vibrators, for example) often find it useful to very gradually build up the thickness of what they can insert. Start by getting very relaxed and just looking at your genitals in a mirror held in front of you, so that you can get used to how they look and respond. When you feel relaxed doing this you can explore the area with lubricated fingers. It is very important not to rush on to the next stage until you feel completely familiar and relaxed with the previous stage. Once you feel fine touching the area, try inserting the tip of your little finger into your vagina. When it has gone as far as it can comfortably, keep it in place, breathe and relax. After this you can work up very gradually to the whole finger, then larger fingers, then two fingers at once. Some women prefer to purchase ‘dilators’ for this process but it is fine to use your own hands.

There are also physical and medical treatments for men who have difficulties keeping an erection. There are vacuum pump devices which can increase blood flow to the area. There are drugs called PDE 5 inhibitors which keep blood in the penis to keep it erect. You have probably heard of some of these like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. The important thing to remember about these is that, although you take them before you become excited, you do need to get an erection for them to work (to keep the erection). If you have trouble getting erections at all then they won’t help and it is worth checking for medical problems and low desire. You might ask yourself whether you get erections first thing in the morning or during the night. There are also some penile injections that can give you an erection.

The best person to advise you about medical and physical treatments is a doctor or sex therapist. Definitely do not order drugs or equipment online which have not been advised by your health professional. These may be ineffective or dangerous.

Remember that addressing the difficulty with drugs will not fix any underlying problems, for example, if your relationship is going through a rough patch, or you are feeling very anxious about sex, or you are under a lot of stress. Most people don’t want to take drugs permanently, so sex therapy can be good alongside the drug treatment to think about why sex has become problematic and what can be done about this.

Also check out the sex tips, elsewhere on the website, which are useful more generally.